BWCA first solo trip Q's.

I canoe up the wisconsin river 6 to 9 miles then take the free ride down current back home. I am very comfortable paddling my 17 foot souris river solo…even though it is a big boat for soloing.

Anyway, I am going to solo trip for a week in the BWCA. Do I need a water filter? How bad are the bugs mid June? What is the water temp (ish). 50’s, 60’s ?..will I need boots or sandels for the water? I am planning on 10 miles or so per day. I am 6’4" @ 220. I will have one pack, a bed roll, some fishing supplies and a my boat. I am in pretty good shape.

Is 10 miles a day an ambious goal, easily done, not for the squeamish, etc? Please help me get started.


In case you missed this link
Here is a current discussion on solo trips. The Nessmunking website is a great resource as well.



– Last Updated: Dec-20-06 1:46 PM EST –

Do I need a water filter? most people bring one, but some don't and get their water away from shore. I bring a bota bottle filter and find that is fine.
How bad are the bugs mid June? Hopefully, the black flies we be easing (depends on an early spring or not), mosquiotes should be plentiful, other than that things should be ok. Black flies mean to keep yourself covered (DEET does not deter them), mosquitoes will be serious at dawn, dusk and on portages.
What is the water temp (ish). by mid-June it will still be cold. A quick dip in and out, but "swimming" would be pushing it. probably mid 50s
Will I need boots or sandels for the water? I always wear hiking boots because of the portage landings and poratges. Some people use knee high water proof boots. I don't worry about getting my boots/feet wet. Portages will be rocky and /or muddy/muskek. Mid June is probably too early to wear sandals water temperature wise and mosquito bite wise. Sandals and neo socks would work, but the trade-off is twisted ankles.
Is 10 miles a day an ambious goal? It really depends on the length, difficulty, and number of portages, the wind on the lakes, and the size of the lakes. For example, a west to east paddle in the afternoon on a big lake is usually with the wind (not always or anytime I am doing it) as opposed to into the wind. Also, you might want to have a lay over day planned in case the wind is really whipping up the lakes one day when hardly any one travels. Also, in your plans you want to anticipate finding a campsite no later than 3 (Ido this at 2) in the later half of June just to make sure this doesn't become a problem (this also depends on your route and how deep you are in from entry points). If I were you I'd look up some of the outfitter sites for their trip suggestions to get an idea on distance and time. Lots of them have them such as Sawbill, Tuscarora, etc. You might also ask at
Also, once you get your routine down at portages, etc. you might cover more territory than earlier in the trip (if covering territory is your goal).

I am sure if you give some idea on where your entry point will be lots of people here or at the site noted above will help on distance goals.
It is a magical place I have visited for years and years and years.

Mid June BWCA

– Last Updated: Dec-21-06 7:08 AM EST –

I agree with what MarkK told you on a water filter, bugs,and hiking boots. I"ll add that in addition to boots, take light footware for something dry to change into once you get into camp. And I'll also add my $.02 worth on water temp and miles per day. By mid June you will generally find surface temperatures in the 60's and maybe up to 70 in black water lakes, shallow bays, and in the western part of the BWCA. But warmth on the surface will only go down a couple feet. If the wind blows strong for a day or so at this time of year, the lakes will turn over again, put fishing off, and can leave you with surface temps back down in the 40's. As far as miles per day - you indicate you are a minimalist camper, will have one pack, and you are in good shape. If you can safely handle the weight of both your pack and canoe at the same time on portages, you can add significant paddling time to your day and add more miles a day than if you have to double portage. If you can't safely carry that weight, don't. You can't take chances on a solo trip. Also if you can consistently be on the water by no later than 8:30AM you will find calmer waters and can realize better milage. So if you can carry both pack and canoe and get early starts - 10 miles a day is a piece of cake. If the going is good you probably would click that off by late lunch time.

Solo Q’s
MarkK, DuluthMoose, I appreciate the replies … you have been very helpful. I am still unsure if I will bring a filter or not. Do you have any suggestions relative to routes? I am looking to stay away from large lakes or limit my exposure to them and spend most of my time of smaller lakes and rivers in the Ely area. Any suggestions would be welcomed.


Small lakes

– Last Updated: Dec-22-06 7:32 AM EST –

If you're going to be routinely camping on small lakes, I definitely recommend bringing a filter in that circumstance. In the Ely area, you can stick to smaller lakes on a loop trip out of Lake One heading East toward Alice. You'll have options on where the turning point could be: Alice, Thomas, Insula OR Adams, Boulder, Fraser, Thomas, Insula OR even further east depending upon your number of days and how far you are moving each day. From Lake One to Insula Lake is the same route going out and coming back unless you end your trip at Snowbank and hike 5 miles for your car. Be aware that if you get as far as Gabimichigami, that area burned last summer.

Previous Advice is right on
I think the advice so far is right on, so my comments are pretty much repeats.

On large deep lakes you can get away with out treating your water if you take it from a deep area far from shore. Otherwise I recommend treating. By far the easiest and safest method is filtering. Boiling is effective but it takes a lot of fuel, the water needs to cool for drinking and it tastes bad. There are also chemical treatments but they aren’t as effective, it takes time, and usually tastes bad. A filter really is the way to go.

Note, however, water that is going to be heated, such as for dish water, coffee, tea, instant oatmeal, etc, need not be filtered. For that you can just dip-and-heat.

Bugs in mid June can be bad (but the fishing good). That shouldn’t stop you though. Bring some good bug dope and a head net. I have only used the head net a couple times, but you’ll still want to bring it cause when you need it you need it. The first hour after dark is generally the worse. Some portages can get buggy, too.

I don’t know what the water temperature is. Hearty guys may take a quick dip, but not for long. It’s still pretty cold.

I don’t recommend sandals except for camp shoes (shoes to change into at camp worn with heavy wool socks). When you see people portaging with sandals, often they have bleeding feet and/or toes. There is a lot of danger for feet with rocks, sticks, and bugs. There are critters call swamp flies, commonly known as “ankle biters”. They are notorious for being in the canoe with you and inflicting a painful bite, sometimes right though a canvas shoe! Wearing sandals is an invitation for them to feast.

Ten miles a day is doable. As someone already said, there are a lot of variables. One of the big ones is number of portages. It takes time to land, load and unload, portage, launch, etc. Personally I enjoy the portages. It gives me break from paddling so I can stretch out my back. For me I usually measure the day’s trip in number of portages and/or hours rather than miles. I shoot for 5 – 7 portages and/or 6 – 8 hours of travel (on the water by 8 am and find a site by 2, or 3 pm).

Little Indian Souix River (EP 14) immediately comes to mind. It’s very popular. Good fishing. Rivers, small lakes, and some medium lakes. Nice campsites. Sometimes it is had to find a site site on Shell.

I would bring a filter
many people think that the water in the bwca is is nice clear spring water ,but that is seldom the case, some of the lakes are swamp like water one lake i was at on a solo trip last year(north-south lake) i didnt even want to drink the water even with filtering .I use the bota bottles like another poster said ,they are inexpensive work well and are great for when you are paddling hard and need a quick drink also i suplement the filter with iodine tabs many times for viral protection. i have typicaly done 8-13 mile days when i solo with travaling time around 3-4 hrs per day always single portaging .the q 17 is not the best solo boat so that will slow you down or even stop you in wind ,a few years ago my father in law wanted to use his gruman 17 as a solo and did ok but there was one time he was blown back so far that we couldnt see him anymore from where we stoped .

happy paddling,

Bob W.

Hi Bob
Planning a solo trip in the BWCA is rewarding. June is also an excellent time to come up this way. It can be busy, but midweek it’s pretty quiet. I recommend looking into routes leaving from the Tofte/Grand Marais area, because you also get to travel next to Lake Superior for awhile, and see all the great waterfall, plus if you have time visit the historic fur trading fort at Grand Portage, plus the towns are just plain nice. You may want to consider renting a solo canoe instead of bringing your big canoe up, but you’ll probably do just fine with your tandem. Sawbill Outfitters is a great place to rent from if you’re looking, but there are many great places to rent from. For a first trip, you can’t beat the Frost River. That’ll put you near some of the recent forest fire areas, which should be really cool to check out in the spring. Wildflowers like crazy!!!

Do I need a water filter?

Nope, but I’d bring something to treat water. I’ve been using Aqua Mira with an old pantyhose over the bottles opening when I scoop water into it. Works great.

How bad are the bugs mid June?

Black flies should be over. Mosquitoes are going to be bad. Bring a high quality headnet. I like ORs. Bring clothing that is loose and covers you head to toe. And don’t forget the deet.

What is the water temp (ish). 50’s, 60’s ?..will I need boots or sandels for the water?

That time of year, the portages will be all mud from the rain (I’m praying for rain! And snow! Cause we don’t got none now), so boots are highly recommended by this paddler. I like to use rubber overboots by Tingley’s over by light-hikers. It’s a great system for the BWCA, and they’re cheap and relatively lightweight.

Is 10 miles a day an ambious goal, easily done, not for the squeamish, etc?

Hard call. I’ve found that most trippers are challenged by 10 miles on their first BWCA trip. The navigation can be tricky, the portages can be a challenge to get used to finding, and wind days can be harsh… If you’re fishing, then 10 is going to be a lot. But, I typically solo 20 to 25 miles a day. I get pretty bored sitting around camp, so I just paddle all day when solo. Your experience may differ. I’d plan on 10, but then bring extra maps and a second plan if you find that you’re able to paddle many more miles.

Hope this help.

What Brian said
I would echo many of Brian’s points . Distance can vary tremendously . If you get up early and like to put in long days, then you’ll hit 10 miles by lunchtime . Both my trips that I took ended up going longer distances and in different directions because I was averaging a lot more miles than I had planned. And I was double portaging . In a good canoe 20 miles a day plus portages is not out of the question……then again if you want to fish, camp early, etc. then 10 is fine .Luckily, many entry points have loop options of varying lengths. Maps don’t weigh much…take a few extra in case you find yourself on the edge of the world :slight_smile:

I have used Aqua Mira for several years now and don’t bring pump filters . Light, easy, and no chemical taste.